General education in Latvia means 12 years of school that are divided into compulsory basic education (first 9 years of school) and secondary education (years 10-12) that can either be general or specialized in mathematics, natural sciences, or humanities and social sciences. A range of subjects are compulsory for all secondary education programs: Latvian language and literature, two foreign languages, mathematics, history, sports, economics, and information and communications technology (ICT).
To receive a certificate of general secondary education, the students need to pass centralized examinations that also serve as a basis for being admitted to higher education. Examinations of the Latvian language, mathematics, and one foreign language are compulsory. In addition, the student can choose to sit examinations in history, chemistry, biology, physics, ICT, geography, economics, or another foreign language.
The school year is 35 weeks long and typically runs from the 1st September until the end of May. The children have autumn, Christmas, and Easter holidays. The total number of study hours per week depends on the age of the child and, particularly in the secondary school, also on the individual choice of subjects.
In Latvia children start school around the age of seven. Pre-school education programs are available from the age of one, and attending a program that prepares for basic education is compulsory for five and six year olds.
Although there are numerous private schools all over the country, they are generally not as prestigious as the state-funded gymnasiums. Private schools have rarely ranked high in (or even been included in) the Latvian school ranking.
Often private schools cover a niche in the market, specialize in primary education, distance learning, or have a foreign language or an international focus (see more in the next section).
The fees depend on the year school. Pre-school costs around 7 000 EUR per year, the first grades cost just below 13 000 EUR per year, whereas secondary school costs 14 000 to 15 000 EUR per year.
Higher education in Latvia is structured in line with the Bologna system and is divided into three parts: bachelor's studies (typically 3 years), master's studies (typically 2 years), and doctoral studies. The national credit point system is compatible with the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).
There are university type higher education institutions (universitate, augstskola) that offer both academic and professional degrees, and other higher education institutions (koledza) that offer only professional education. The majority of students have to pay for their higher education; however state-funded places are available for the most able applicants in selected fields of study.
The biggest universities that offer degrees in foreign languages (mostly English) are:
The largest collection of books and other resources is available at the National Library of Latvia that is housed in a newly built state-of-the-art library building on the left bank of the river Daugava. If you are looking for materials in foreign languages or digital resources, the National Library is the place to go.
There are smaller public libraries all over the country, more than a 100 of them in Riga alone. You can find the closest library to by search the map on the Latvian Library Portal (only in Latvian).